Mathewson and Foley benefit from support
March 18, 2013
Alby Mathewson (right) earned his right to celebrate Western Force's victory against Queensland Reds © Getty Images
Michael Foley is not alone in revelling in the "supportive" Super Rugby organisation at the Western Force. Alby Mathewson has also lapped up his move to Perth, following a year to forget for the Blues in Auckland, and the former All Blacks half-back highlighted his value as a marquee signing with a standout display against Queensland Reds on Saturday night.
The Kiwi recruited by Foley provided the desperate Force's attacking flair and X-factor in a breakthrough 19-12 triumph over the Reds at Suncorp Stadium. Their first victory this season was their first in Brisbane and Foley's first success after 11 successive defeats dating back to last year.
But the coach has already consigned his nightmare season as Waratahs head coach to history. "Mate, I've drawn a line under last year a long time ago," Foley said. "The journey I'm on now is with this team and I'm loving every minute of it. I've loved it from the first day. We have an incredibly hard-working playing group who are developing all the time, and we have an amazingly supportive organisation which is not something that can be taken for granted."
Foley didn't mention the Waratahs by name in the afterglow of the success at Suncorp Stadium, but twice he hailed the support and unity the Force boasts in what could only be seen as a veiled comparison. He praised the character of his players to respond to the demoralising round-two loss to the fledgling Southern Kings, which had many experts tipping a wooden-spoon finish. "This is an organisation that has been under immense pressure for an extended period and yet they have hung tough and they have rode through it," Foley said.
Foley recruited Mathewson as a direct result of the coach's time at the Waratahs, as the scrum-half carved up NSW playing for the Blues in the 2011 elimination final at Eden Park. "He was an absolutely critical player for them that year," he said. But Mathewson was pushed out after Piri Weepu followed the four-Test All Blacks scrum-half to Auckland last year, despite his former Hurricanes team-mate being recruited to play five-eighth. "I'm not trying to bag the Blues, but promises were made and not kept," Mathewson said.
New Blues coach John Kirwan intended to trial both Weepu and Mathewson at half-back this year, but a decreased contract offer convinced the 27-year-old that he'd enjoy more game time at the Force.
"The toughest thing for me was not being eligible for the All Blacks," Mathewson said. "But then again, being stuck at No.2 you are always going to be in trouble. [Kirwan] wanted me to stay and said he couldn't really separate us. But the contract they offered me compared to what they had been paying me was a kick in the guts."
Western Force thoroughly deserved their victory (video available only in Australia)